Malki, my angel, know we will never cease fighting for justice. Your death will not remain demeaned.
Eleven years ago today, Israel was rocked by one of the worst terror attacks it has known. The suicide bombing of Jerusalem’s Sbarro Restaurant left 15 men, women and children dead – the equivalent of 643 Americans or 121 Britons.
Memories of that horrific day are chillingly vivid for my family: Our teenage daughter and sister, Malki, was among the 15 who perished in the inferno produced by the 10 kilograms of explosives concealed in the terrorist’s guitar case.
On the heels of that grief, we have suffered an unprecedented travesty of justice perpetrated by our own leaders. Malki’s murderer, Ahlam Tamimi, was one of 1,027 Palestinian terrorists released in the Schalit deal of October 2011. Alongside our untold personal pain, that move shook the foundations of Israel’s justice system and, perhaps most disturbing, has endangered all Israelis.
Uncontroverted evidence has emerged of the consequences of that fateful move. Starting the day after Schalit returned to Israeli soil, a succession of journalists, IDF officers and Netanyahu confidantes have publicized damning information hidden from the public throughout Schalit’s captivity.
First we learned that, contrary to our prime minister’s insistence, the release of murderers was not the only way to rescue Schalit. Intelligence and military options existed for locating and saving him but were never pursued. (See “Why Did Netanyahu Free My Daughter’s Killer? Mother Blasts Prisoner Exchange To Free Gilad Schalit,” published in Forward, December 09, 2011.)
In July, David Meidan, who served for many months as Netanyahu’s envoy to the Schalit negotiations, delivered a lecture at Tel Aviv University. Contradicting Netanyahu’s strident assertions, Meidan disclosed that politics – and not only security and diplomacy – were a factor in the prime minister’s decision to sign the deal. According to Haaretz, Netanyahu also recently conceded to the German newspaper Bild that his decision to sign the deal was in part due to pressure from his wife, Sara.
The ramifications of Netanyahu’s selfish gambit have proven dire.
SIX MONTHS after the deal, the IDF website posted the following: “Several of the terrorists recently released from captivity as part of the deal... have returned to terrorist activity... with 10 terrorists arrested so far.”
This was a consequence of the deal against which we and other terror victims warned. Tamimi had declared “I do not regret what happened. Absolutely not... Do you want me to denounce what I did? That’s out of the question. I would do it again today, and in the same manner.”
Last month, Army Radio interviewed Col. Saar Tzur, the outgoing commander of the Binyamin division. Tzur said that the Schalit deal triggered a steady and noticeable rise in the number of attempted-terror attacks in Judea and Samaria and inside the Green Line. “It doesn’t matter whether they were released to Gaza, the West Bank or abroad,” Tzur said. “We see a return to terrorism.”
This last point is particularly telling in light of an assertion by Netanyahu’s Spokesman Mark Regev in June: “Israel does not have a problem with terrorists leaving,” said Regev. “It’s easier for us when hard-core terrorists actually leave. Their ability to hurt us in the future is much more limited.”
Apparently, Netanyahu presumes to know better than the IDF.
Regev was responding to a reporter’s question about the government’s decision to permit a convicted murderer, Nazir al-Tamimi, to cross from the West Bank into Jordan. According to the conditions of his release in the Schalit swap, Tamimi was to be confined to the West Bank for life. Yet in June 2012, Netanyahu agreed to ignore that restriction, thereby enabling him to marry his fiancée. She happens to be Ahlam Tamimi.
GRANTING MARITAL bliss to two such evil souls is probably the most infuriating of Netanyahu’s confounding actions.
As the parents of a child who died in Israel’s ongoing war with its bellicose neighbors, we have enjoyed not one iota of consideration from the man who now holds our lives in his hands. Netanyahu has ignored each of several impassioned pleas by us to keep Malki’s murderer behind bars. He has never explained or justified to us his decision to consent to the mass release of convicted murderers.
Today, on the anniversary of their deaths, some Israelis will visit the graves of Tamimi’s victims: Mordechai and Tzira Schijveschuurder and three of their eight children; Shoshana Greenbaum and her unborn baby; the only child of Shifra and Dr. Alan Hayman; Michal Raziel and Malki Roth, best friends buried side by side; and the seven other men, women and children whose deaths caused Tamimi to smile joyously on video.
We can be certain that one Israeli will not honor these precious souls today – our prime minister. He has made it clear that people without political currency simply do not merit his attention.
He and his cohorts could learn a lesson from Malki. In the final year of her life, she kept a lengthy daily journal of her thoughts and activities. She was a smiling, active, vibrant and talented girl but she carefully recorded the details of each Israeli terror victim on the day he or she died. They mattered to her.
On May 29, 2001 for example, three Israelis were shot dead by terrorists. Malki wrote: “In homeroom class, I couldn’t concentrate at all and it was very difficult for me. Everything that is happening with this ‘situation’ has thrown me into a tough depression and I was terribly sad.”
If only our leaders felt even a fraction of Malki’s love for their fellow Israelis. This nation deserves that.
The writer is a freelance writer in Jerusalem. Her daughter Malki was murdered at the age of 15 in the Sbarro restaurant bombing in 2001. With her husband Arnold, she founded the Malki Foundation (www.kerenmalki.org). It provides concrete support for Israeli families of all faiths who care at home for a special-needs child.